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Not too long ago, I secured a part-time babysitter. She came highly recommended and with impeccable credentials and experience. Once I met her, I was assured that she is a capable, dependable, good person. Ten years my junior (for the sake of perspective, I’ll disclose that I’m 37), she struck me as a free spirit. Her resume listed her as an accomplished language instructor and a yogi. When I first watched her in practice, she hummed traditional hymns to my son. Everything about her is sweet. Of course, when you consider trusting someone to care for your child, you’re going to be profiling, making assumptions. So my stereotyping was in full force when I observed her the first day.
Here’s what I assumed: I’ve got a calm, zen personality here. Surely no one who is this chill and kind would ever shake a baby, so she’s hired. Then, just for fun, I wondered more about her background, her opinions. My initial assessment was that, well, we’re looking at a certifiable millennial, so she’s most likely progressive, identifies as feminist; once she finds out my background, I’m probably the one who needs to prepare for questioning.
This particular day, as she was getting to know our baby, she was bouncing him affectionately while perusing the bookshelves in one of the upstairs rooms. I was flattered when she took a keen interest in the subjects —in my mind, a person’s displayed books tell a story about them. She even asked to borrow one. I realized quickly that she was making assumptions of her own (not knowing anything about our family at that point), but what struck me was this question she asked: “Is your husband a lawyer?”
Hmm, I thought to myself. Where did that come from? Immediately I knew: she must have caught a glance at “The Federalist Papers,” or works on political science, or more likely my business law books. “No,” I smiled. “These are my books. My husband’s books are downstairs — he’s more of a World War II buff.”
I’ll be real honest (and risky) as an editor: I’m not sure I entirely like the fact that we have an issue dedicated to women. It’s true: there are fewer women at “the top” in many professions, but in my experience, the ones who are there earned it with no mistake. I’ve been blessed with female mentors and role models who are unquestionably deserving of the accolades and wealth they’ve accumulated. To me, it minimizes our gender to carve out special attention since, in my mind, our claim has been steadily staked throughout history. And we’ve arrived.
BUT! Remember this adorable person standing in my house, holding my baby. Her question surprised me. Why would she assume my husband is a lawyer? Why didn’t she ask if I was a lawyer? Isn’t this new generation of the workforce supposed to be the most educated, empowered, socially liberal facet of our society? The reason I smiled is because I was reminded of an important lesson that day: we all make assumptions, and they’re too often wrong.
So I concede. Here we are in 2018, 20-some years since my official career began, putting a spotlight on a segment of our society which happens to also be the majority. Isn’t that something?
My hope is that in the coming years, an issue dedicated to one gender won’t seem necessary. Our readership is fully comprised of both. So let’s all remember to put assumptions aside and recognize our peers and employees on merit, regardless of profile. In the meantime, we’ll continue with our annual Women Issue.